As a child I remember learning to sing the song "I have decided to follow Jesus." It was fun to sing but I had no idea what it meant. I thought it meant be nice. I thought love God and love your neighbor. And I mistakenly thought that it meant if you lived a good life nothing would happen to you. You would somehow be protected.
Today's gospel brushes away that childish notion and reminds us of the real price of discipleship. The same deacon Stephen who was able to captivate even some members of the Sanhedrin with his preaching is stones to death. And for all St. Paul tries to dress it up, it would have been unimaginable to most of us. Even our most gruesome forms of capital punishment pale compared to the slow agonizing death of stoning.
With all the talk of the New Evanglizatiion, we can forget that the Greek word for witness is martyr. If we are going to be true witnesses we have to be willing to be rejected and even allow ourselves to in some ways die for the faith. Few of us will have to physically die. It may be the death of some relationships. It may be the death of habitual actions or ways of thinking. As we emerse ourselves deeper and deeper into the mystery that is our faith we may find that some of the people and things we hold dearest will have to go.
The decision to follow Jesus must me made daily and even sometimes minute by minute. Witnessing to the faith may be in words but more often it is in our actions that real faith makes its presence known.